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Governor extends ‘safer-at-home’ order: Local mayors call for personal responsibility

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — In the face of climbing virus numbers, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday extended a state health order that limits the number of people in restaurants and stores but didn’t follow other states that have issued new restrictions as the pandemic worsens.

Ivey announced she was extending the state’s “safer at home order” that, among other things, limits occupancy in stores and restaurants and requires safety measures at salons. The Republican governor extended the order, which had been set to expire Friday, through the end of July.

In a press conference at the Alabama Capitol, Ivey said she believed a statewide mask order would be unenforceable and was hesitant to issue new closure orders, saying “you can’t have a life without a livelihood,” but pleaded with people to voluntarily wear masks and take other precautions.

“Let me urge you, in the strongest manner I can, to incorporate COVID-19 precautions into your daily routine,” Ivey said.

State health officials have expressed alarm over the state’s recent virus numbers

As of Tuesday, Alabama had more than 37,000 cases of the new coronavirus, and more than 25% of infections in the last two weeks.

In Pike County, cases climbed to 396 with five confirmed deaths. Troy University has reported six new cases of the virus since Monday: five among off-campus students and the other is an employee at the softball complex.

Local leaders echoed the governor’s call for personal responsibility as relates to social distancing, wearing a mask, and taking care of yourself. “People just have to be responsible,” said Troy Mayor Jason Reeves. “Everyone needs to absolutely social distance, wear a mask and stay a safe distance from others … and, we’ve said this since the beginning, if you’re sick, stay home. If you’ve tested positive, follow the CDC guidelines; if you’re waiting for your test results, stay home until you get the test back.”

Reeves said the virus is “something we’re going to be dealing with for a while,” and ultimately personal responsibility will help stem the spread. “The governor said it today … (a masking order) is almost unenforceable,” he said. “And she does have the authority through the state health officer to enforce that. It’s not clear that we (at the City of Troy level) have the authority to make people wear masks …

“But if I’m out, if I’m in an uncontrolled area, I’m going to wear a mask,” he said. “And I do that as a precaution for other people … we all should do that.”

Brundidge Mayor Isabell Boyd strongly supports the governor’s decision to continue the “Safer at Home” order until 5 p.m. on July 31.

“I care about every citizen of Brundidge and Pike County as well as people throughout our country and around the world. “If we would all stay at home unless it is necessary, we would have a much better chance of beating the coronavirus.”

Boyd said it is up to each individual to support the governor’s order and she is calling on the citizens of Brundidge to stay home because “you are safer at home.”

“We must each do our part and that means staying at home instead of riding up and down the streets, just to be riding,” Boyd said. “Make a list and go to the grocery store once or twice a week and get everything you need instead of going every day and sometimes two and three times a day. Every time you go in a store, you’re taking a chance.”

Boyd said wearing a mask is most important in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“Germs are carried when you talk and laugh just like they are when you sneeze or cough,” the mayor said. “We know that but, still, there are more people without masks than with them.”

Boyd said if, Gov. Ivey had required the wearing of mask, she would have supported her in that.

“We’ve got to stay home, wear masks when we’re out, social distance and stay out of crowds. If we don’t, the number of people with COVID-19 is going to continue to be high,” she said. “Look at all we missing. How many of us can remember a time when, here in Pike County, we didn’t have revivals and family reunions?”

Boyd said those things help define who we are as a community. Wouldn’t it be good to also be defined as people who stayed home to protect themselves and others from a potentially deadly virus?

State Health Officer Scott Harris said the percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive is at its highest point, at just under 11%.

“That means we know we have increasing transmission going on in the community,” Harris.

He said hospitalizations are also at its highest point, with 750 COVID-19 patients in hospitals and 275 intensive care beds available statewide. Ivey said she reserved the right to reverse course if needed to prevent state hospitals begin getting overwhelmed.

Other states have ordered new restrictions.

Arizona’s Republican governor shut down bars, movie theaters, gyms and water parks and leaders in several states have ordered residents to wear masks in public in a dramatic course reversal amid an alarming resurgence of coronavirus cases nationwide.

Ivey said she thought a statewide mask order would be “next to impossible” to enforce.

“You shouldn’t have to order somebody to do what is just in your own best interest and that of your family, friends and neighbors,” Ivey said.

Rep. Dexter Grimsley, who lost his sister Lorianne Grimsley Shakespear to COVID-19, spoke at the news conference and urged people to take it seriously.

“If she was alive today, that’s exactly what she would be telling me each me and every day, protect yourself and protect others.” Grimsley said.